I don’t know if it was hitting my early 30’s or having a baby but something ticked off a series of ailments I found myself complaining about constantly. They were so minor and sometimes obscure like one ear being continuously plugged up/full or an overall sense of fatigue that there was never a clear answer so I just kept charging on. I bounced around different health practitioners and specialists when I got really frustrated but it always ended up feeling like I was chasing a unicorn.
At one point I landed in a functional medicine doctor’s office that had me take an at-home saliva test for 48 hours. It tested all my hormones and the results showed I had diminished Cortisol levels—everyone starts with high levels in the morning and they’re the lowest in the evening. Mine were low by 9 am, which meant my adrenal glands were “burnt out.” Now here’s the annoying part, I still don’t know why exactly they got so burnt out. I’ve been told it could be anything from a food allergy or gut issue to physical or emotional stress so I considered all of it while researching and learning everything I could. That was almost three years ago and while I never figured out exactly why, I got really in tune with my body and when I felt good and when I didn’t.
Here’s what seems to make the biggest difference in healing my adrenals or at least supporting them.
When considering your adrenal glands, sleep is everything. For years I was a night owl, staying up until midnight sometimes working on my blog since it wasn’t my day job for the first four years. And then when Elin was born I’d still work at night for a few hours after she went to bed, except now I was up at 6:30 with her instead of sleeping in. When I took a long hard look at my sleep, I wasn’t getting enough. So the first thing I did was stop working after 7 pm. Because even if I shut off my computer at 9:50 and get in bed by 10 pm I sleep terribly and have trouble falling asleep because of the adrenaline rushing through my body. For me, there’s a sweet spot and if I ignore my body signaling me it’s time for bed I get this insane second wind and I can feel my cortisol kick in and then I can’t fall asleep. This has been the most noticeable factor for me when it comes to my health and making good sleep a priority bodes well for the next day. I’ll notice it if I get as little as an hour less than I should.
Supplements And Herbs
There are some really amazing supplements out there to help with adrenal fatigue and I think I’ve tried all of them. Whether you have adrenal fatigue or not, taking Ashwagandha daily can really support your adrenal glands and help you sleep at night. My other favorites are Magnesium before bed, A-drenal and Dr. Sadeghi’s Healing Tranquility (one in the morning and 2 before bed). If I’m having trouble falling asleep, a common struggle with Adrenal Fatigue, I usually up my magnesium dosage and it always does the trick.
Ten years ago I ate anything I wanted, stayed up late, drank plenty of alcohol, rarely touched a leafy green and celebrated my out-of-control sweet tooth that pretty much defined my personality. And since I have always been thin, I never felt the need to limit any of it. So when I started reading more about how diet can affect our adrenal glands, I did an overhaul and started making better decisions. More cooked vegetables, healthy fats, protein and less processed foods, sugar and caffeine. Also eating consistently, even snacking for me since my metabolism is so high, is crucial. I get hangry really quickly and it’s not pretty. I’m still getting the hang of it, learning new recipes and (the hardest part for me) planning ahead, but I’ve seen the benefits of a cleaner diet and certainly cutting out the sugar. Read more about my diet changes.
Cutting Out Coffee and Alcohol
I know, I know… but I cut these two out for 3 months and it was night and day how much better I felt. Over the holidays I couldn’t resist a cup of coffee in the morning or a toast at dinner and (of course) a sugary treat, who wouldn’t it’s the holidays? But it was a slippery slope and I started needing that morning cup of jo and a month went by and all the terrible ailments came creeping back—fatigue, tired and wired at night, headaches… and the list goes on. So while I have the occasional latte to spoil myself I try to not get into that regular pattern. There are ways to quit coffee you just have to commit. When it comes to alcohol I stick to tequila on the rocks or with lime, none of that sugary stuff.
I’m a huge fan of acupuncture and have been going for at least 10 years. Most of the advice and tips I’ve found the most valuable through this journey have been from a Chinese acupuncturist I see on the regular. And not to mention the acupuncture treatments instantly make me feel better when I’m run down, tired and feeling like my adrenals are burnt out. I’ve taken herb blend treatments she’s prescribed and noticed a huge difference. I also sleep better after treatments, which is healing in itself.
Stretching, Foam Rolling
This has been the most recent support I’ve discovered that works for my overall wellbeing. Jenni Kayne introduced me to the Lauren Roxburgh when we had the chance to take one of her classes on the Pacific Natural retreat. Foam rolling essentially releases tension and promotes blood flow in our fascia (the connective tissue around our muscles) which directly helps our endocrine system. Basically you feel better inside and out. I’ve been pulling out my foam roller before bed, during the day if I’m sitting at my computer too long and in the morning (the rare occasion but if I have time it’s the best way to start my day). Also any intense exercising is not a good idea if your battling adrenal fatigue. I was hooked on hot yoga for awhile and realized it was making my symptoms worse. Non-heated yoga, stretching, swimming, moderate hiking and pilates won’t make your cortisol levels rise too much, which is what you want, at least for a little while.
Schedule in Breaks
The quickest way to drive yourself into adrenal fatigue is constantly running on empty. When I get in the zone with work, it’s pretty bad how quickly I forget to stop and drink water or even eat a snack, heck I’ve skipped lunch before when I’m busy—which is THE WORST. Even if it’s 5 minutes of breathing, meditation, kicking up your feet or having lunch with a friend, make the time to give yourself a mini break. And something bigger then that on the weekends like a hike, massage, time away from electronics, a nap, whatever you feel like you need to just chill. Your adrenals will thank you.